I took exception to Prof Blattman’s blog entry on EO where he lied three times in two sentences. I also sent him a copy of my blog posting challenging him to prove his allegations and to give him an opportunity to clarify his lies – despite him not giving me an opportunity to comment on his false and slanderous claims. This resulted in an email debate between Blattman and I and I simply followed the old adage – if you give a man enough rope, he will hang himself.
Ironically, it was Prof Blattman who wrote about “sloppy journalism” and the lack of research…
Given the recent upsurge in articles aimed at increasing the disinformation already out there on EO, I have decided that enough is enough. Whereas the company was in no way perfect and also made many mistakes (as its founder and chairman I must take the blame), I cannot sit by while armchair journalists and suspected disinformation agents apparently acting on behalf of African terror groups openly lie about good men who did what they did to end conflicts in Africa and elsewhere. I cannot allow people to tarnish the name of good men who sacrificed so much to bring about an end to conflicts by those who never set foot there and are too lazy to conduct decent research.
My thanks to the many that sent me mails attacking and criticising Prof Blattman. However, this is not about attacking the man but rather about showing how he abused his position of trust to lie to achieve someone else’s goals.
I leave it to the readers of this blog to decide on the validity of Prof Blattman’s answers to my three basic questions.
On Dec 2, 2013, at 6:58 AM, Eeben Barlow wrote:
Dear Prof Blattman,
I read your blog entry on Executive Outcomes with much interest.
I have decided to respond with a posting questioning your "facts" regarding EO.
Perhaps you would care to enlighten me on your "facts" as obviously you seem to know things we do not know.
I have attached my posting hereto for your attention and response.
I look forward to hearing from you.
On 2013/12/02 04:17 PM, Chris Blattman wrote:
Thanks. If you have an HTML for the attachment I'd be happy to link to it. Or I can just post the PDF.
On Dec 2, 2013, at 11:06 AM, Eeben Barlow wrote:
Simply posting it on your blog is really no response to some serious allegations you made.
It appears you choose not to respond to my questions?
On 2013/12/02 06:31 PM, Chris Blattman wrote:
I do think it’s important that anything I blog is held accountable to critics, especially any who are being criticized, and so posting your objection would be the minimum I could do. Moreover, in order to respond, or have my readers respond or comment, I’d prefer to be able to link to your full comment. I could simply upload the PDF to my site but I thought you might have a website of your own you’d prefer me to link to. I don’t have a strong preference.
I’ll do my best to respond to the comments on the blog, and hopefully it could lead to a discussion from me and the readers that provides a more comprehensive response. My first impression is the following: The main point of my blog post was to say that there there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding EO—you describe it quite clearly in your comment--and that it’s reasonable to expect a publication of the caliber of the New Yorker to discuss this and provide the best evidence for or against. If the case against acts being “dodgy” is a strong one, this would serve you well. But casual observers like me are not in a position to do this research themselves, and it’s hard to judge if journalists or state organizations who have critiqued you are discredited as you say. This is what we rely on the specialized journalists and academics to do. The New Yorker author failed here, in my opinion. If quality investigation would vindicate you, then they also failed you and EO as well, since the half-informed like me are unconvinced.
In light of this, I should have written “allegations of dodgy acts” rather than “dodgy acts” since I don’t have expertise or knowledge here. I did balk at your point that acting on behalf of a sitting African government by definition makes an act not dodgy. In my opinion, few African governments had a strong claim to legitimacy in the 1980s and 1990s, whatever that might mean. Even if they were legitimate, however, the actions of a legitimate government and their agents can easily be questionable, wrong or illegal (and often are). The job of journalism and academics is a democracy is to ask and debate these hard questions, and ultimately that’s what disappointed me about the New Yorker article. I wasn’t looking for them to string up EO (indeed, as I mentioned, I think that some of the EO record is quite commendable) but rather to discuss rather than obscure important controversies.
Your thoughts welcome.
On Dec 2, 2013, at 11:57 AM, Eeben Barlow wrote:
Thank you for responding.
Surely you can do better than that!
My rebuttal to your posting is posted on my blog for all to see and comment on. I have no problem with fair criticism but your comments on EO were so off the mark that it was amazing that an intellectual will simply state lies as fact and perpetuate what has been acknowledged to have been a massive disinformation campaign against EO. I suppose to use your model of research, that makes you a disinformation agent.
I would suggest that you go back and investigate where the controversy came from.
I asked you three questions – all three of which you want to avoid. To now claim that you are merely a “casual observer” is basically passing the buck, isn’t it?
The journalists and organisations I wrote about in my book were all entitled to sue me. None did. Those journalists have now been so discredited that they are seldom able to practice their “craft”. The Star newspaper in SA published a full page apology to me and admitted they had been misled re EO. Basic internet research would have indicated that to you.
As you blog about EO and appear to want to come across as a knowledgeable person on the company, how can you now claim to be “half-informed”? Surely, research is exactly that – an investigation for the truth.
It was you that brought up the “dodgy” acts – I merely elaborated on them. If a government anywhere in the world is recognised as “the government”, regardless of where they are or what political system they adhere to, are they then actually not legit? After all, the USA recognised all the governments that contracted us as the legitimate governments of those countries – and note – they contracted us to help them. We didn’t invade them – and we still remain friends years after we left. But are you also telling me that these governments are therefore, in your opinion, not legitimate?
I am still waiting for the “outlawed” and “disbanded” explanation.
I appreciate your comment on EO’s commendable acts but I take umbrage to three lies you stated as “fact”.
To tell me that you “don’t have expertise or knowledge” on the matter is really poor especially coming from someone who is entrusted to teach facts to your students.
On 2013/12/02 07:04 PM, Chris Blattman wrote:
I’ll do my best to post something in the next day or so. But I am definitely passing the buck. In part because there just aren’t enough hours in the day, and the blog is most definitely a sloppy personal exercise. As I remind my readers often: I ain’t the New York Times. But passing the buck in academia means deferring to the experts, and expecting them (including New Yorker journalists) to do this job for us. That’s the nature of specialization—not all of us can do the detailed research. I imagine it would take me months to do what you propose. So should I be more cautious in some of my comments? Sure. And I’ll make that point. But was I erroneous to raise concerns about the controversy and the opaque dismantling of EO, and hope for more. Surely the answer is yes, and that is the serious and main point of the post. Wouldn’t you agree?
On 2013/12/02 07:17 PM, Eeben Barlow wrote
I don’t think it is necessary to post anything on your blog as the damage you intended to do has been done, wouldn’t you say? The article you referred to happened to portray the old EO in a positive light and you took exception to that – without much effort at thinking or doing research. Instead, you chose to mislead your readers whilst attacking a lady who does not just talk the talk but is willing to put her money where her mouth is. There certainly aren’t many like her around and whether you believe it or not, she went out and DID something instead of simply criticising all and sundry. Had she contracted an American or British company, I am sure there would have been no complaints.
Like you, I too have too few hours in the day, but if I write something, I will stand – and die by it. And, by the way, my blog writing is also a sloppy personal exercise. But, I never pass the buck and blame someone else for my mistakes.
I am not too sure I understand your last sentence so I shan’t comment on it.
The bottom line, regardless, is I do not agree with you.
Thanks for your time.